China Travel

Not much time to do anything this morning, as we needed to get our gear together and make it to the train station by around 11AM, for our overnight trip to Guangzhou. Chinese trains have up to five classes of seating on an overnighter. Hard seats & soft seats which are exactly like they sound, soft seats being more expensive of course. Hard sleepers are open compartments with six bunks and no bedding. Soft sleepers are doored compartments with four bunks and bedding is provided. Deluxe soft sleepers are doored compartments for two people. We went soft sleeper.

The Air China flight was pretty dismal. I was looking forward to riding on Air China because I despise flying United internationally. As mentioned before, international flights seem to be treated as a seniority gig for United. It’s the landing place for the most unfriendly, geriatric and overweight of flight attendants. Since I usually sit on an aisle I’m constantly subject to being jarred as they try to sidestep their bulk down the aisle, then receive the evil eye if they don’t think I accommodated them enough or as they refuse my request for a ‘double’.

On the third day in Yangshuo we hit the bikes again, cruising through random villages and farming areas. Lots of stuff growing out here... rice, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, taro root, sesame seeds, chili peppers, mint, mandarin oranges, pomelo, bamboo (for food and construction), tea, eggplant, and more. Gops brought along and lit of a string of 1000 firecrackers in a pleasant little valley and immediately afterward caught a flat and had his handlebars come loose... how's that for karma? Fortunately, there was a small village less than a kilometer away and in this area it's all too easy to find someone to repair a flat as bikes are the number one mode of transportation.

Once arriving at Guilin Airport we still had another 90+ minute ride to Yangshuo. The Guilin area (Jianxi Province) is known for being scenic and relatively free of air pollution (mostly agricultural). Unfortunately we ran into some bad timing as it was smack dab in the middle of the rice harvest and every farmer was burning off leftover straw. This produced a semi-transparent white haze over the whole region. My initial impression of Yangshuo itself was that it wasn't all that charming, compared to say... Lijiang, but it is practical and convenient.

October 17th was mostly a travel day, packing up, etc. I did a little catching up on the site while Cody and Don made a last round through the old city, etc. At about 10:30am we were off to the airport to catch a flight to Hangzhou (about 1600km south). The pollution on the way to the Taiyuan airport was even worse today than when we first arrived. Hangzhou is one of many 'former capitol' cities, a distinction shared by over a dozen Chinese cities. It's also the city that Marco Polo called the most beautiful city in the world. It's located about 2 hours SW of Shanghai and its most well known feature is West Lake, a big and very scenic lake that the city has grown around. It's a very modern Chinese city, much along the lines of Shanghai.